Children’s social care service to be outsourced as North Somerset Council bids to save even more money

PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 February 2017

The service affected works with families in North Somerset.

The service affected works with families in North Somerset.

Archant

A North Somerset Council service which supports some of the district’s most vulnerable families is set to be outsourced, as the cash-strapped authority looks for more ways to save money.

The council’s family group conferencing (FGC) service has supported families in the area for more than 13 years. A family group conference allows family members to plan and make decisions on behalf of a child who is deemed to be at risk, along with help and advice from social workers.

Around 75 per cent of the country’s local authorities commission FGCs for vulnerable children in their area, and North Somerset received 38 referrals to the service during the 2015/16 financial year.

However, the council says the service’s projected overspend during the next financial year is likely to be about £76,000 – meaning outsourcing is ‘necessary’ in order to reduce this amount.

The new outsourced contract is likely to be worth £300,000 for three years if it goes ahead, and interested organisations are now being asked to submit their bids directly to the council.

A council spokesman said: “The action was necessary to address as a contribution to the in-year recovery of the adult care overspend, and to ensure all providers within our supporting people department had reached a five per cent reduction against (their) contract, as included as part of the council’s budget last year.”

A council report into the decision said outsourcing the service to an external provider would help to bring down the cost of employing staff and training new FGC co-ordinators – factors which it said were responsible for this year’s high projected overspend. It also claimed it would be asking social care providers for ideas on how to get the most value for money from the service.

The report said: “Outsourcing the service should support the council to deliver the service within the specified budget.

“In turn, this could mean (providing) a larger service to more families than we are currently able to offer. By being able to offer more FGCs we are able to support more families, which in turn can lead to less demand on social services.

“By seeking a three-year contract we are able to support the winning provider to develop and embed the service and provide a level of consistency. In addition, by being able to enter into a competitive tender, we will be able to seek solutions from the market on how to offer a quality service for the best value.”

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